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Verizon Chooses Sides, While Level 3 Keeps Fighting With Comcast

Verizon says it supports Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) in the cable giant’s ongoing face off with Level 3 over who should bear the cost of increased web video traffic. In a recent letter [PDF] to the FCC commenting on proposed net neutrality rules, Verizon characterizes Level 3 as a company involved in a “routine negotiation over the terms of a peering arrangement” that has simply decided to convert it into a net neutrality dispute. There’s nothing wrong with Comcast taking “relative traffic flow” between the networks into account and then reaching a decision Level 3 ought to pay it something for heavy traffic on its network, says Verizon.

It’s not entirely surprising that Verizon is supporting Comcast here, because it may imagine that as a company that offers internet access directly to consumers, it could well be in the same position as Comcast in a future peering disagreement. But it remains to be seen if any corporate allies will rush to the side of Level 3, or if the company will stand alone in pushing to lower the fees it pays.

For its part, Level 3 is going to keep fighting. Level 3 executive VP John Ryan told Multichannel News that his company sees the dispute as a violation of the just-adopted net neutrality rules. “Our objective is to get to the point where the parties have agreed on a fair and reasonable interconnection regime that doesn’t require a toll for the delivery of content to Comcast eyeballs,” said Ryan.

The dispute began when Level 3 said that Comcast was trying to charge it money for sending it network traffic. Level 3 has begun making payments to Comcast for the extra traffic, although it isn’t happy about that change. Comcast calls the dispute an ordinary disagreement over “peering,” or internet connections between networks with different owners. Level 3 claims that Comcast’s new charges are an effort to increase expenses for internet video services that might compete with traditional cable services.

“ISPs can’t charge Google (NSDQ: GOOG) or YouTube or Hulu directly for access to their subscribers,” Ryan told MCN. “Our position is that a charge on their carrier, Level 3, is effectively the same thing.”